The Value in Standups

Tl;dr: Get more from your standups by cutting the fluff and focusing on the key points of value you will deliver.

At Property Technology Ltd, Our CTO, Bilal Khan, challenged us to reconsider our standups. Our core focus is value, so why should our standups be any different? Here’s why standups often don’t work, and how we’re fixing that.

What’s the purpose of your daily standup? What do you share? Why?

In my experience, standups are fundamentally treated as a time to share todo lists. Something like this:

“I did X , Y and Z yesterday. Z was really difficult because of reasons. There are some things missing because I can’t remember them. Oh, I did this thing too. Today I’ll hopefully get these other things done.”

We do this in the hope of catching any blockers and dependencies, but a well managed team will catch these while planning and communicate smoothly as soon as something missed is identified. So scratch that. Why else?

It’s great to know what your team members are working on. It’s motivating and builds a sense of team success, as well as a level of accountability. So, 30 minutes after your next standup, try recalling what everyone is planning to achieve today.

Can’t remember? Were there too many tasks? Was it hard to concentrate for the duration? Scratch that too then.

Here’s what we want out of a more useful standup:

  • Accountability. Did you achieve what you meant to? If not, let’s find out why and make your next day more productive.
  • Sense of team. This is key for any team, and with some remote team members it’s doubly important for us.
  • Motivation. As an early stage startup, work is hard. We work long hours, with low pay and high risk, in the name of reaching our great goal. We need to feel we’re getting nearer to help us push ourselves onwards.

This is our new structure:

  1. What value did you create today?
  2. What value did you fail to create today, and why?
  3. What value will you create tomorrow?

Value moves the marker that little bit closer to the goal. It’s motivating for everyone, and it’s brief.

Failing on a commitment highlights problems that slow us down. If there’s a problem we can solve as a team, we’ll be more productive moving forwards. This isn’t about finding flaws and pointing fingers. It’s about finding bugs, and fixing them.

Our days will inevitably be peppered with miscellaneous tasks that we didn’t plan on, but is that worth sharing? Is it memorable, motivating or otherwise useful? If I compressed this entire article into a single block of text, would you still be reading?

Cut the fluff. Keep your standup succinct and try to find at least 3 key points of value each for both today and tomorrow.

I expect this change will take continuous reminding and refocusing every standup for at least the next couple of weeks to get right, but we’re looking forward to feeling the results.

And yes, I did say today and tomorrow, rather than yesterday and today, as we’ve also moved our standups to the evening.

Have similar experience, or some suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

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